NOFX takes a fair amount of shit for being a joke band, a pejorative way of branding a band that doesn’t take themselves too seriously as a band that can’t be taken seriously. That’s a mistake.
Sure, Fat Mike sings about clams (not) having feelings, has portrayed himself as a literal clown, and has spent his entire professional career calling himself Fat Mike. But comedians are often capable of great dramatic depth. And, hell, clowns can be serious, too.
Some of NOFX’s best work is built on being patently ridiculous—I’m looking at you, “Monosyllabic Girl” and “Thank God It’s Monday”—and those songs absolutely rip. And some of the band’s best work has come when they’ve raised up the mantle of actual seriousness; not so much the political stuff as the unexpectedly existential entries. “Eat the Meek” may be the best NOFX song—actually, it is and I’ll brook no disagreement on that count—but darkly tragicomic tracks like “Dad’s Bad News” and “Falling In Love” feel like the band’s sweet spot, a mix of elements that only they could successfully unite.
What strikes me about “Falling in Love” in particular is that if it had been written by any other band, I think it would have been held up as a seminal work of punk, the kind of song that expands what a genre can be. It’s got that great intro, the pivot to blast beat, those tight harmonies and those brief but effectively romantic lyrics that, sung by any other singer, would have engendered a cult-like, earnest following.
I’ve got your back, “Falling in Love.” We’re gonna die but not our love. Not our love.
This post originally appeared in the The Queue: A Songs & Stories Newsletter.